Evaluation of the Medium Rise Construction project 2016-2017

Overview

Medium rise construction sites – buildings between three and ten storeys high – are managed by construction operators that may not have sufficient systems and controls in place like the big industry players to ensure appropriate Work Health and Safety (WHS) and trades licensing compliance. The Medium Rise Construction project targeted this sector with a focus on specific WHS issues: scaffolding, electrical work and formwork as part of a broader SafeWork Formwork project. The project also included a Fair Trading component as part of a collaborative approach to cover regulatory requirements across multiple regulators. In this case, data was collected around trades licences and retention monies for contracts over $20 million (funds set aside in a Trust fund to ensure subcontractors are getting paid).

Throughout this project, SafeWork inspectors visited 222 medium rise construction sites between November 2016 and end of June 2017.

A comprehensive evaluation of the project has been conducted to assess the effectiveness of the project in terms of improving compliance and the effectiveness of the collaborative component.

Benefits of the evaluation

The intended use of the evaluation is to identify opportunities to turn the project into Business as Usual, inform future collaborative projects, and generate insights into compliance issues within the medium rise construction industry.

Evaluation methods

The evaluation relied on a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods, with in-depth interviews being the core method to explore participants’ experience of the project. A total of 27 individuals were interviewed: seven businesses, 12 inspectors (10 SafeWork inspectors and two Fair Trading inspectors) and eight internal project stakeholders. The evaluation also used project data about the number of visits and aggregated outcomes, detailed Fair Trading assessment data, and SafeWork checklist data from the overall Formwork Hazard Prevention project to give an indication of the level of WHS compliance observed.

The evaluation was conducted internally by evaluation staff not involved in the project.

Evaluation findings

  • The project was successfully implemented, exceeding the initial target of 150 visits by 48 per cent thanks to the extension to regional visits that made 126 of the 222 visits.
  • The project targeted an industry of interest for both regulators, however synergies were limited because of a different compliance focus, which has implication in terms of the stages of the build the respective regulators are targeting. Whereas Fair Trading focuses on the closing stage where more licensed trades are involved, SafeWork inspectors are more likely to target the earlier stages where the building is erected, and risks are higher for workers.
  • The level of WHS compliance observed through the broader Formwork project was high. However, some businesses were still not compliant in critical areas representing high risk for workers, particularly in relation to falls from heights. For instance, out of all Formwork visits (not only the Medium Rise Construction visits), 29 per cent of businesses did not have scaffold edge protection provided where a person could fall.
  • The project contributed to improving compliance against such issues through the notices issued by SafeWork inspectors. Feedback from businesses also indicated that visits improved businesses’ awareness with evidence of actions being taken following the visits, for instance through improved toolbox meetings.
  • With regard to Fair Trading compliance requirements, the project generated new intelligence which showed a relatively high level of compliance for head contractors and trades licensing (over 75 per cent) in the medium rise construction industry. Most breaches were in relation to some licensing discrepancy between the individual trader licence and the company licence.
  • The collaborative component of the project was mainly limited to SafeWork inspectors collecting data on behalf of Fair Trading. The main direct benefit of this component was the new intelligence generated for Fair Trading, which was new and interesting data, but did not identifying critical compliance breaches. However, the project seems to have had some indirect benefits, by encouraging internal stakeholders to think more about collaboration, which may trigger future opportunities for such projects.
  • Considering the limited benefits from the collaborative component, it is not recommended to turn the project into Business as Usual as it would require additional resourcing.

Further information

A copy of the full report is available on the DFSI (Department of Finance Services and Innovation) website.

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